According to the World Health Organization, about 285 million people worldwide are considered visually impaired, meaning they are fully or partially blind. Visual impairment makes it tough to navigate today’s fast-paced, technologically-focused world. However, advances in technology are enabling innovative designers to create inventions which allow the blind and visually impaired to regain a sense of autonomy, agency, and dignity in a world which often undermines their potential.

  1. Mobile phones adapted for the visually impaired

    None of the major mobile companies such as Apple or Android has phones specifically built for blind people, although some models can be tailored for those with mild visual disabilities. The B-touch mobile phone by Yanko Design is a smartphone, equipped with touch screen technology, which is entirely designed for blind users. The phone uses a combination of a braille touch pad, high-contrast raised keys, voice recognition and camera word processing technologies to enable the blind to do many of the tasks of traditional smartphones.

  2. Touch-sensitive vibrating shoes

    The sense of touch is highly underused in technology assisting those with visual impairments. One shoe company called Lechal had designed a pair of shoes which combines GPS technology with vibration to help the user navigate through his or her environment. The shoes vibrate the left or right foot when a turn is needed, and the designers soon hope to be able to identify obstacles ahead.

  3. Tactile Flash Cards

    Another design by Yanko, these flashcards enable the lifelong visually impaired to learn about different objects through three-dimensional diagrams and braille terms.

  4. Argus II: The Bionic Eye

    Although this may sound like something out of a science-fiction novel, it has been used experimentally by over a hundred people. The company Second Sight developed Argus II to help those with degenerative eye disease (not those blind from birth) to regain some amount of vision. The device uses a combination of retinal implants, optical processing glasses, and electrical impulses to transfer light manually from the user’s environment to the visual cortex.

  5. Thermal Painting

    Although it may not seem like the most useful invention, there are plenty of blind artists who are denied the opportunity for creative freedom. This touch colour tablet necessarily translates colour into critical temperature (a spectrum of tools for blue, purple, and green, and spectrum of warms for reds). This way, artists can paint using heat as their guide and can “mix” colours as well as sample colours from their environment.

  6. Braille Watch

    Another Yanko design called the “Feel the Time” watch has physical dots of braille moving around the clock face rather than two hands under a glass panel. This enables the blind to feel the positioning of the clock hands and tell the time.

  7. Braune Bell Concept Mug

    This mug enables the blind and the visually impaired to drink hot beverages like coffee and tea without risking burning themselves. Most blind people use their fingers to test the level of water in a mug, but this cup sends out a different pitch when the mug is low, medium, or almost full so that the visually impaired person can hear the water level rather than feel it.













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